Manipulation of nervous systems by electric fields

Apparatus and method for manipulating the nervous system of a subject through afferent nerves, modulated by an externally applied weak electric field. The field frequency is to be chosen such that the modulation causes excitation of a sensory resonance. The resonances found so far include one near 1/2 Hz which affects the autonomic nervous system, and a resonance near 2.4 Hz that causes slowing of certain cortical processes. Excitation of the 1/2 Hz autonomic resonance causes relaxation, sleepiness, ptosis of the eyelids, or sexual excitement, depending on the precise frequency used. The weak electric field for causing the excitation is applied to skin areas away from the head of the subject, such as to avoid substantial polarization current densities in the brain. Very weak fields suffice for bringing about the physiological effects mentioned. This makes it possible to excite sensory resonances with compact battery powered devices that have a very low current consumption. The method and apparatus can be used by the general public as an aid to relaxation, sleep, or sexual arousal, and clinically for the control and perhaps the treatment of tremors and seizures, and disorders of the autonomic nervous system, such as panic attacks.

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Claims

1. Apparatus for modulating cutaneous nerves in areas of sparsely innervated skin away from the head of the subject, comprising:

field-applying means for applying, predominantly to the said areas of the skin, an external periodic electric field with a frequency in the range 0.1 to 2 Hz and such that, over the said areas, the field amplitude is between 1 and 25 V/m, for modulating cutaneous nerves in the said areas of the skin without causing classical stimulation of cutaneous nerves; and
frequency tuning means for tuning the frequency of the field-applying means.

2. Apparatus according to claim 1, in which the said field-applying means comprises field electrode means, generator means for generating a periodic voltage, and conductor means for connecting said generator means to said field electrode means, further including:

switching means for interrupting polarization currents through the said conductor means, caused by a 60 Hz house field when the apparatus is inactive.

3. In electrical apparatus for inducing at least one of a plurality of results, namely relaxation, sleep, and sexual excitement, and control of tremors, seizures, and panic attacks, comprising:

generator means for generating a periodic voltage with a peak-to-peak variation less than 10 V and a frequency in the range 0.1 to 2 Hz;
field electrode means, electrically connected to the generator means, for applying, predominantly to areas of sparsely innervated skin away from the head of a subject an external periodic electric field, with an amplitude over the said areas between 1 and 25 V/m, for modulating cutaneous nerves in the said areas without causing classical stimulation of cutaneous nerves; and
frequency-tuning means for tuning the frequency of the generator means.

4. In an apparatus according to claim 3, and wherein the field electrode means comprise one field electrode to be placed adjacent to skin area on the hips, buttocks, and lower back of the subject, and another field electrode to be placed adjacent to the skin area on the back side of the thighs and knees of the subject.

5. Apparatus for manipulating the nervous system of a subject, comprising:

generator means for generating a periodic voltage with a peak-to-peak variation less than 16 V, and a frequency less than 45 Hz; and
field electrode means, electrically connected to the generator means, for inducing an electric field on the skin of the subject to modulate afferent nerves, without causing classical nerve stimulation, and without causing substantial polarization current densities in the brain of the subject.

6. Apparatus for manipulating the nervous system of a subject, comprising:

generator means for generating a periodic voltage with a frequency less than 45 Hz and a peak-to-peak variation less than 16 V;
at least two field electrodes, connected to the generator means, for producing an electric field;
one casing for containing the generator means and the field electrodes.

7. A method for manipulating the nervous system of a subject, comprising:

selecting, on the subject, a skin area away from the head;
generating a periodic voltage with frequency less than 45 Hz, and a peak-to-peak variation less than 16 V;
applying the periodic voltage to field electrodes for producing an electric field; and
administering the electric field predominantly to said skin area, for modulating afferent nerves without causing classical nerve stimulation, and without causing substantial polarization current densities in the brain of the subject.

8. The method of claim 7 for exciting in the subject a sensory resonance with a resonance frequency below 45 Hz, further including the step of setting the voltage frequency to the resonance frequency.

Referenced Cited

U.S. Patent Documents

3441136 March 1976 Buealo
3678337 July 1972 Graunogel
3840020 October 1974 Smith
3886932 June 1975 Suessmilch
4084595 April 18, 1978 Miller
4197851 April 15, 1980 Fellus
4297980 November 3, 1981 Suzuki
4611599 September 16, 1986 Bentall et al.
4856526 August 15, 1989 Liss et al.
5169380 December 8, 1992 Brennan

Foreign Patent Documents

0285415 December 1965 AUX
3327126 April 1984 DEX
2164563 March 1986 GBX

Patent History

Patent number: 5899922
Type: Grant
Filed: Nov 14, 1997
Date of Patent: May 4, 1999
Inventor: Hendricus G. Loos (Laguna Beach, CA)
Primary Examiner: William E. Kamm
Application Number: 8/970,747

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: Electrical Therapeutic Systems (607/2)
International Classification: A61N 136;